GEORGE R. NIELSEN
DURING THE ELEVEN YEARS residence in Texas prior to his
death, Mathew Caldwell spent most of his time in the
saddle fighting for his adopted country. He did not
achieve the prominence of some of the other fighters because he
neither became a politician nor the general of a large force. He
was at his best as the leader of a small corps of frontiersmen
where a situation demanded split-second decisions and a brave
example. When an invader threatened the frontier, Caldwell could
collect men overnight and be the first in the field. Caldwell died
a hero, but he left few documents and few descendants, and
memories of him have been restricted to several of his major
exploits. This status is unbecoming to a man like Caldwell, and
he must be placed in proper perspective with the men of superb
accomplishment of his day.
Caldwell frequently was not called by his real name but by the
sobriquet of "Old Paint." He received the name because his
beard was dark and splotched with white reminding the frontiers-
man of the coloration of the paint horse.1 Noah Smithwick re-
ported that Caldwell's tanned complexion was "interpersed with
patches of deathly white."2 Texas had many Caldwells, but only
one Old Paint and the affection displayed in the name demon-
strated the feeling of Texans toward this frontiersman.
Old Paint was born in Kentucky on March 8, 1798. His edu-
cation was limited to the restricted opportunities of the area. The
frontier spirit was strong in the Caldwell clan and in 1818 the
members moved to Missouri. In Missouri there were several tribes
of Indians which frequently raided the settlements, so the twenty-
year-old Mathew received early training in Indian fighting. In
several campaigns against the marauders, Caldwell distinguished
xGeorge W. Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fd Expedition (2 vols.; Lon-
don, 1845), I, 105.
2Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, II, 176.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 64, July 1960 - April, 1961. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101190/. Accessed May 23, 2013.